Originally published by our MD, Rishabh Dev, on Iamwire.
A marketer’s biggest nightmare is that in spite of all his knowledge of social media channels, tips, and tricks, he will fail in promoting his brand online. The thought itself gives me the heebies jeebies. It’s hard work getting your clients to like you and be loyal to you in a virtual world with an ever-changing topography. Maybe this is why many marketers find it easier to get close friends and family to like their brand pages; especially on Facebook. You know your people will never leave you unliked and unfollowed. But as the title of this blog will tell you, this is a highly flawed practice.
Earlier this year I came across an article by Peter LeSaffre – founder, president and CEO of Fusion Worldwide – written for The Entrepreneur Insiders network, titled “Why You Should Never Hire Your Friends”. Without mincing words, he calls it a recipe for disaster. Today, I’d like to add another dictum to the list of what we shouldn’t ask our BFFs to do – Never ask your besties to like your startup’s Facebook page. Unless, you wish to skew your metrics and harm your brand’s social media future.
Confused how? Let me tell you a story that will help you understand.
SOCIAL MEDIA, FRIENDS, AND THE ‘FOUNDER’S EGO
There once was a creative genius who used to have crazy-awesome epiphanies. One such instance gave him the idea of a new startup and mad hatter that he was, our crazy genius put his heart and soul into creating his own company. It took a while but things fell into place and eventually Sir Crazy became ‘Mr. Founder’ and had a brand to his name. Sadly, no one other than him knew of his brand and so, he took to social media to spread word. The very first people he approached were his lifelong friends and close members of his family. Soon the likes and comments started flowing in and with every virtual ‘Well done!’ our Founder felt his heart swell and his ego boosted. Sometime later though, when the crests of social love flatlined, Mr. Founder had an almost heart attack and he called in the troops, asking more friends and family to follow his page and keep the numbers ticking. In no time, a stagnation point was reached and he resorted to buying Facebook likes because his ego couldn’t handle the situation. Even though our mad hatter’s ideas were great, the brand he tried to create online never really took off despite all he tried. Ironically, he still does not know why.
Excuse me for using a parable to elucidate my point (I’ve been feeling a tad Christmas-y) but the moral of the story is pretty understandable. Entrepreneurs and marketers often invite their social circle, including friends and family, to like their startup’s social media profiles. This gives an initial boost of likes and followers to the page, while simultaneously stoking their ‘founder’s ego’. This trend is much more prevalent on Facebook which is a platform where almost everyone is connected to everyone else in their family and friend circle. When someone follows this practice, they will see a steady stream of goodwill on their brand’s page. From grandma dearest to that annoying junior from school, congratulatory messages will seemingly know no bounds. Until one day, the friends stop going wow at their lightbulb moment and they see that their brand has no real followers, and no loyal client community to back it. To keep showing traction on the page, many entrepreneurs then resort to buying fake likes and comments – a tactic that helps no one.
HOW BBFs MESS WITH METRICS
Ideally, the likes on a brand page should be a representation of potential MQLs (marketing qualified leads). In marketing jargon, an MQL is a website visitor who is highly likely to turn into a customer. The number of social media followers is also a good metric by which to judge the sales pipeline and funnel in place for product or service. A number of sales forecasts and reports can be built based on these metrics. Knowing their true performance on social media platforms, where user comments and feedbacks often happen in real time, can help a brand take specific, desired actions to better their product or service.
For the above to happen though, the brand’s social media metrics have to be picture perfect. When we ask our BFFs to follow our brand online, it is a given that the likes and shares will follow. However, marketers need to understand that our folks will provide low engagement on content related solely to the brand’s products and services because they aren’t the actual end users. In fact, I will go on to say that our loved ones will most likely never feature in our brand’s sales funnel and buyer journey analyses. On the downside their likes, shares and positive comments will create an illusion of ‘good numbers’ thus providing a distraction for the sales and marketing teams. The forecasts and reports based on these activities will therefore be skewed and will never accurately represent the end-user perception about the brand. In the virtual war to win customer loyalty, a friendly fire of this kind can really hurt your brand’s goals.
FOCUS ON YOUR STARTUP’S TRIBE
It’s time entrepreneurs and marketers learnt a harsh truth – your startup’s tribe is NOT the same as your social circle. It is not your friends but your ideal user personas who are your true champions, even when they are being your worst critics. So, for every startup vying for attention online, the first step is always to identify their ideal user persona(s) through user interviews and early adopter interviews. The next step is to target users matching these persona(s) through social media and other digital channels. The social media followers a brand gains via this method will form its tribe and represent its actual user base. The metrics garnered by the on-page activity of this tribe should then drive the brand’s sales and promotion efforts online, and serve as a guide for the product and customer experience teams. What do your users like/hate about your product or service? What is their oft-repeated complaint? Do they recommend your product to their own friends? What changes in your modus operandi would make them use your products more? These are the questions your brand needs answers to, and while your own friends and family might serve as an idea board to tackle these issues, client feedback and needs should always trump their inputs.
In conclusion, please do stay away from the temptation of inviting your connections to promote your brand page, and instead focus on building a strong and loyal customer following. Begin by researching your brand’s buyer personas, target them diligently across digital channels, make plans to sustain their interest in your product/service and build your own Tribe – the fan boys and girls who would wear your brand colours proudly. And no matter how much they scream their love for your ideas, always ensure that your BFFs are kept miles away from your social media handles. It’s probably the one time when ignoring your besties will turn out to your own advantage.